A recently released study has announced that aspirin could stop the onset of such degenerative diseases as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.

The research article “Human GAPDH Is a Target of Aspirin’s Primary Metabolite Salicylic Acid and Its Derivatives” was published on November 25 in the journal Plos One, and it explains that salicylic acid (SA)—a primary component of aspirin—binds to an enzyme much more easily referred to as “GAPDH” (versus Glyceraldehyde 3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase), which is considered a player in degenerative diseases by causing brain cell death.

The work, completed by researchers from Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore, Maryland) finds that both synthetic versions of salicylic acid and naturally occurring compounds extracted from the licorice plant are adept at inhibiting GAPDH.

GAPDH does have a positive role in our bodies—when used to regulate glucose absorption—but it can mutate and kill cells as well. However, when SA binds to GAPDH, the enzyme stays out of brain cells, leaving them alone.

The concept of using medicine to attack GAPDH and protect brain cells is nothing new, as drugs like deprenyl (its brand name Selegiline may be more familiar) behave in similar fashion, warding off degenerative diseases—but imagine if something as common as aspirin could have a similarly beneficial effect.

It’s not news that aspirin (Acetyl SA) has health benefits; it’s used for both temporary nuisance illnesses (fever, pain, inflammation) and life-threatening conditions (strokes, heart attacks).

In addition, it seems the potential of aspirin goes even further than the potential to prevent degenerative diseases, as recent studies find SA also targets HMGB1. A pretty important protein—as it helps organize the DNA in our cells— HMGB1 also has a role in arthritic inflammation and inflammation-related conditions. Just as aspirin is now believed to affect Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, our bodies breaking down aspirin into SA can also help suppress the negative effects born of HMGB1.

Cornell’s Hyong Woo Choi, a lead author on the Plos One piece, was previously quoted in September for a different piece on the benefits of SA, but his words qualify in this case as well:

“Some scientists have suggested that salicylic acid should be called ‘vitamin S’, due to its tremendous beneficial effects on human health, and I concur.”